The global market for flexible packaging is forecast to grow at an average rate of 3.4 percent annually over the next five years and reach $248 billion by 2020, according to a new report from Smithers Pira, The Future of Global Flexible Packaging to 2020.
Four key trends are driving the flexible packaging market:
The combination of environmental pressures and high polymer prices are increasing demand for thinner films. Flexible packaging uses less resources and energy than other forms of packaging. It provides significant reductions in packaging costs, materials use and transport costs and has certain performance advantages over rigid packaging.
2. High-Performance Films
Food packaging films are trending toward high-performance film structures that are less permeable to increase shelf life and enhance flavors. The ongoing success of flexible packaging as a replacement for glass and metal packages can be attributed directly to the substantial improvements in barrier properties of plastic films and particularly clear plastic films.
3. Consumer Convenience
Ready meals that are available in new flexible packaging formats are in a prime position to take advantage of the current social trend toward convenient mealtime solutions.
Packaged fresh meat, fish and poultry consumption will grow at a faster rate than unpackaged produce to 2020. Growth in the pre-sliced sector and in premium lines has promoted growing demand for modified atmosphere (MAP) packaging. Demand for chilled food is also being driven by a greater variety of ready meals, fresh pasta, seafood and exotic meats.
4. Bio-Derived and Bio-Degradable Technologies
The proliferation of bio-based plastic films continues with polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and poly-trimethylene terephthalate (PTMT) showing the most promise on the materials side of the equation, and thermoplastic starch (TPS) films on the petroleum replacement side.
- Brazil’s Braschem Green PE manufacturers a bag made from 36 percent locally grown sugar cane.
- Emerald Packaging in the US has launched a bag for potatoes that is manufactured from 25 percent potato starch resin and 75 percent low-density polyethylene mixture.
- In Japan, Toyota’s Tsusho Technologies has developed a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin based on sugarcane.
- Dai Nippon Printing, also in Japan, has launched vacuum-deposited barrier films produced from sugar cane and other ethanol sources and combined with petroleum-based components.